Israeli reporter enters ‘forbidden’ city of Mecca for first time

In May, Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on Israeli visitors, but one group of Israeli journalists abused this burgeoning hospitality to disrespect their Muslim hosts.

On Monday, one day after US President Joe Biden left Saudi Arabia, Channel 13’s world news editor, Gil Tamari, broadcast footage of himself driving into Mecca. The video showed TAmari passing under the iconic Mecca Gate, also known as Qur’an Gate, which marks the entrance to the city from the Jeddah–Makkah Highway. The gate signifies the boundary of the haram area of the city of Mecca, where non-Muslims are prohibited from entering. To enter Mecca for a non-Muslim can result in penalties such as a fine or deportation from Saudi Arabia.

Tamari then drove past the Masjid al-Haram, also known as the Great Mosque of Mecca, where millions of Muslims gather to pray during Ramadan.

In an image shared by the network, Tamari was also seen on Mount Arafat, about nine miles from Mecca, where Muslims gather during the hajj pilgrimage.


Channel 13 published an article describing Tamari’s excursion, promising more details in the evening.

“Gil Tamari was the first Israeli reporter who managed to get in and out of a journey in the city and get closer to the tower below which the sacred stone is located,” Channel 13 wrote. “And what happened when he was suspected?” 

Israel has been in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to allow direct flights from Ben Gurion International Airport to Mecca, but this would be for Israeli Muslims making Hajj to the city. Saudi Arabia has long admitted Muslim pilgrims from Israel but must travel through third countries.

Perhaps one of the more astounding responses was from a Twitter account belonging to  Mohammed Saud, a pro-Israel Saudi Arabian. 

“My dear friends in Israel,” he said in a video. Remarkably, he made this statement in fluent Hebrew.  “Your reporter entered the holy city of Mecca for Islam and photographed without shame; it’s like I would enter the synagogue and read in Torah, Shame and Disgrace Channel 13, you should be ashamed to hurt the religion of Islam, you are rude.”


Israel in the News